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Why Are Washington D.C. Teachers Suddenly Quitting Mid-School Year?

A growing number of teachers in Washington D.C. are dropping the hammer and leaving their schools in the middle of the school year, according to The Washington Post.

Rowan Langford is one of those teachers who said while she was a student at Tulane University couldn’t fathom how a teacher would leave their students high and dry in the middle of the year.

“Being in it, you realize how long a year is because every single day feels like three,” the 22-year-old former math teacher at Ballou High said. Langford’s former school has had more teachers quite mid-year than any other school in D.C. with 21 teachers -- 28 percent of its faculty -- leaving between August and February of the 2016-2017 school year.

The number of DCPS teachers who quit mid-year (184) jumped 44 percent from the number who left in 2014 (128).

It’s been estimated that 40 to 50 percent of teachers will leave the classroom within their first five years on the job. While still only accounting for about 5 five percent of the 4,000 public school teachers in D.C.,  the growing number of teachers leaving before the summer break is particularly unsettling.

“Every teacher, no matter how successful they are at their job, knows that leaving mid-year is a really unkind thing to do to kids and the school. If they are doing it, it’s out of anger, or an overwhelming sense that you are not doing anybody any good by staying,” Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, told The WP.

The cause behind such a high turnover rate and growing number of teachers boils down to a number of reasons say educators.

“One of the big reasons I quit was sort of intangible,” explained Richard Ingersoll, a former high school social studies teacher. “But it’s very real: It’s just a lack of respect,” he says. “Teachers in schools do not call the shots. They have very little say. Ingersoll now works as a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and has studied education reform programs to help schools retain more teachers.

While many veteran teachers are leaving the classroom because of issues ranging from increasingly rigid teaching guidelines and stagnant increases in pay, lack of support is major culprit of pushing out younger teachers. Unrealistic expectations, ballooning workloads and behavioral problems have teachers like Rowan Langford calling it quits.

Research shows that a huge factor in keeping teachers on the job -- especially those with less than five years of teaching under their belt -- is fostering a strong support system.

Induction programs that help to provide new teachers with guidance and support from a mentor or master teacher have been growing in popularity and showing success. Only around 50 percent of new teachers reported participating in some sort of induction program in 1990, according to a study conducted by Ingersoll. In 2008, nearly 91% of new teachers participated in a program.

These programs vary greatly, however with some just receiving regular feedback from their principal and others reported having an in-classroom teaching aid and reduced teaching schedule to ease their transition. It’s the depth of support that teachers are given by administrators that makes all the difference.

“Those schools that do a far better job of managing and coping with and responding to student behavioral issues have far better teacher retention,” said Ingersoll.


Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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